Jan. 30, 2013
HOUSTON, Texas – After trailing by as many as 15 points in the first half, Rice University men’s basketball rallied past Houston for a 79-69 win on Wednesday night at Tudor Fieldhouse. The Owls shot a blistering 65.2 percent from the field in the second half and turned the ball over a season-low four times in the game to secure the program’s fourth win in the last five meetings against the Cougars.
Reigning Conference USA Freshman of the Week Max Guercy led the scoring charge with a season-high 21 points, including 14 in the second half, on 7-of-9 shooting. He added four assists and four rebounds with three three-pointers.
Tamir Jackson added 18 points on 4-of-12 shooting and a 9-of-10 mark on free throws. The senior salted the game away from the foul line as the Cougars (13-7, 2-5 C-USA) attempted to extend the game down the stretch. Jackson finished with a team-high six boards to accompany three assists and a steal.
Head coach Ben Braun said, “I was proud of our guys; they really stuck with it. When we were down, I told them not to worry about the offensive end. The way we’ve been shooting lately, I knew opportunities would come, so I wanted them to focus on defense. We challenged ourselves and I thought we really responded to that in the second half tonight.”
Houston led by as many as 15 points early in the game as the Owls got off to a slow start shooting the ball. The Owls (5-15, 1-5) used a late first-half spurt to pull within eight points at 33-25 at the break despite shooting 31.3 percent in the frame and just 2-of-14 from downtown.
Rice quickly recovered in the second half as Guercy and Julian DeBose knocked down back-to-back three-pointers to gain momentum and close the deficit to just three points at 37-34. The Owls sank five of their first eight shots in the half to pull even closer at 48-47 with 10:38 on the clock.
The Owls took their first lead of the half when Jackson finished a drive on the baseline to put the Owls ahead one minute later. The score remained within four points for a stretch of more than 10 minutes well into the second half, as the lead changed hands eight times on the night.
Ross Wilson broke the run with back-to-back baskets to put Rice ahead by five points with just 1:21 remaining. After Houston’s next possession ended with a Wilson steal, the visitors were forced to foul. The Rice lead never slipped to fewer than five points in the final minute as the team sank 10 of its final 12 foul shots.
Wilson closed out the night with eight points on 4-of-6 shooting with a pair of rebounds. DeBose added seven points and four of the Owls’ 29 rebounds.
For the game, Rice shot 45.5 percent from the floor and 21-of-24 from the charity stripe. Houston sank 48.2 percent of its attempts from the floor but just 10 of its 20 free throws. The Cougars held a 37-29 advantage on the glass and a 42-22 edge in points in the paint.
Joseph Young notched 17 points for the visitors while TaShawn Thomas tallied a double-double with 15 points and 10 boards.
The Owls conclude the two-game homestand on Saturday against East Carolina. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. at Tudor Fieldhouse.